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Twenty Is the Magic Number for Purdue

Date: Saturday, June 10, 2017


Peoria, Illinois—After turning in years of solid performances, the Purdue Boilermakers can finally be hailed as champions of the International 1/4-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition. 

Always a strong competitor in the collegiate event, Purdue took top honors at the 20th annual event, held recently in Peoria, Illinois.  "We have had multiple top-five finishes but never seemed to be consistent enough across all events to put together a top finish," said team advisor John Lumkes, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue. "This year things worked out where we scored well across all of the performance events. Given the quality of the other teams and tractors it is an honor to win."

This is the second consecutive year that a perennially strong contender enjoyed its first taste of championship-level success: The University of Nebraska last year ended years of top-ten finishes to claim top honors. The Huskers finished third this year. Also among the top five were South Dakota State University, whose runner-up finish was the team's best-ever. Rounding out the top five were Oklahoma State University and Kansas State University, in fourth and fifth places, respectively.

This marked the twentieth year for the competition, sponsored by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Drawing teams from the US, Canada, and Israel, the contest is unique among student engineering-design contests, providing a realistic 360-degree workplace experience. 

Lumkes cites the contest as providing valuable hands-on experience. "Increasingly our incoming students do not have the same opportunities prior to college to get a lot of practical experience," he says. "And I love this competition because it not only encompasses the full design-build-test engineering cycle, but students also have to communicate and explain their design in front of engineers from industry. Regardless of any team’s final placing, the students learn a lot."

Beyond the competitive aspects, the atmosphere of the event encourages teamwork beyond each school, he says. "It’s encouraging to see students jumping up to help other teams, sharing their experiences, discussing internships, and making friends." 

Competing teams are given a 31-hp Briggs & Stratton engine and a set of Titan tires; the tractor is theirs to design and create. Judges evaluate each machine for innovation, manufacturability, serviceability, safety, sound level, and ergonomics. Teams also submit a written design report and must sell their design, in a formal presentation to industry experts playing the role of a corporate management team. Finally, machines are put to the test in three performance events—three tractor pulls, a maneuverability course, and a durability course. This year’s group of seniors were involved as underclassmen and having prior experience was very beneficial during the weeks (long hours) leading up to the competition and during the competition. The students were always receptive to learning new things and receiving feedback. 

Through involvement in the competition, students gain practical experience in the design of drive train systems, tractor performance, manufacturing processes, analysis of tractive forces, weight transfer and strength of materials. They also sharpen critical “soft” skills--communication, leadership, teamwork—as well as gain experience in fundraising and test and development.

Sponsors of the 2017 competition include: AGCO, Briggs & Stratton, Case IH, Danfoss, John Deere, New Holland Agriculture, SolidWorks, Titan, RCI Engineering, Caterpillar, Campbell Scientific. Also, Katie McDonald Photography, Claas, and Thompson. Other supporting sponsors include Central City Scale, Igus, Miller, GSI, and MacDon. ASABE is an international scientific and educational organization dedicated to the advancement of engineering applicable to agricultural, food, and biological systems.

A complete list of winners by judging category can be found online.

For more information, contact Tina Schultz,

The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) is an international scientific and educational organization dedicated to the advancement of engineering applicable to agricultural, food, and biological systems. Further information on the Society can be obtained by contacting ASABE at (269) 429-0300, emailing, or visiting

Photo credit: John Lumkes

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